A political scientist at the University of Ghana (Legon), Dr Asah Asante says he has no reason to doubt claims by the Ashanti King, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II that he persuaded Former President John Mahama to concede defeat in the 2016 general elections, despite the rejection of the claim by the office of the former President.
The Asantehene, speaking at the UN High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace at the Headquarters in New York, Otumfuo Osei Tutu stated that for his intervention, the 2016 general election would have heavily been characterized with violence resulting from the unwillingness of the losing faction to accept defeat.
“I’m proud that in a quiet and informal way we in Ghana are showing the benefits of the traditional and contemporary cohesion in governance. Apart from the constitutional arrangement for a National House of Chiefs, the respect for traditional authority has created a layer of moral authority that can be mobilized in times of crisis. On occasions where the political temperature has been on the verge of boiling over it has been possible to bring the combatants into a quiet conclave to cool down passions and restore calm”
“At the conclusion of the last Presidential and Parliamentary elections the country stood on the edge of disaster. The UN Representatives and the Diplomatic community were aghast alarmed that Ghana was about to slip down the slope of electoral violence. Fortunately, the moral authority of the Palace was at hand. We were able to intervene to persuade the losing candidate to accept his fate and fly both candidates for a quiet encounter to pave way for a smooth handover,” he stated.
But in a release signed by a former Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah, dated September 15, the office of the former President rejected claims by the Ashanti monarch, suggesting that the Asantehene who has been known over the years to be a very respected interlocutor in Ghana’s multi-party political engagements lied.
“I state without equivocation that the decision to concede and congratulate Nana Akufo-Addo even before the official results were declared was taken by President Mahama himself without any persuasion from any quarter,” an apparent suggestion that the powerful Asante King lied to the global community openly. As former Chief of Staff to President Mahama, I was associated closely with all the pre, during and post 2016 poll events,” the statement said.
It added that “it is public knowledge that President Mahama willingly announced his decision to accept the outcome of the 2016 elections and congratulate Nana Akufo-Addo even before the official results were formally declared by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission.”
It is on the back of this that Dr Asante is stating that the claims by the Asante King are an indictment on the country’s democratic practice.
According to him, nobody should be forced to accept election results if we really are practising journalism.
“If what the Asantehene is saying is true, which I have no reason to doubt in my mind that what the Asantehene is saying is the truth, then there is a problem with our democracy. I say it’s a problem because one of the cardinal points of our democracy is that the leader must accept defeat and abide by the rules of the game. Nobody should impress upon any leader in the country in an election to accept defeat… it should not happen”
The academic further stated in order not for this to repeat itself, there is the need to strengthen the agencies who are part of the electioneering process, including the Electoral Commission (EC), Political parties and the media.
“One thing we need to look at is that we need to build the institutions that support democracy. We need to strengthen them, that is, the electoral commission, the political parties and other institutions which is the media and all that so that they play their role, in educating the masses, in educating politicians, and the general public”
The incident has garnered a lot of reaction from political actors as well as the general populace.
Recent to add voice to the debate is the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) who says, the ruling New Patriotic Party is trying to divert public attention from their failings as a government by pitting the Ashanti king against the former President John Mahama and by extension, the whole party.
“Unfortunately, instead of congratulating his majesty the Otumfuor, some people have sought to quell pieces of his presentation and to put their own interpretations on those presentations in a veil attempt to create the impression that if indeed Otumfuo offered advice to his excellency president Mahama and then president Mahama took the advice into his own decision to concede the outcome of the 2016 elections then that makes President Mahama less of a democrat, I believe that these conclusions can only come out of a thinking process that is, to say the least, wrought. I don’t see why these statements contradict each other so much so that it becomes a subject of a national debate designed to divert attention from very burning issues that are on the national agenda within these past weeks”, Mr Asiedu Nketia stated at a news conference organized by the party on Monday.